Not to complain. I love summer riding, but some days are just too hot. Do I miss those steamy days? The sweat trickling into my eyes and soaking my cycling clothes? The blistering sun slowly baking my skin to leather? Not so much! With the right gear, I’m finding that cold weather cycling can be fun too.
For instance, the day we saddled up a few weeks ago and headed straight into a blustery head wind. It was about 3ºC degrees (38º F)—a good deal colder if you factor in windchill. But the sun was shining, the sky was a cloudless, autumn blue and the fall colours were at their peak. It was a delight to be outside on my bike taking it all in.
Looking at the natural splendour around me was easy because I wasn’t distracted by the cold. I was toasty warm— right from the tips of my toes to the top of my noggin. In fact, I couldn’t believe how comfortable the ride was—no jaw-clenching, shoulder-scrunching fight through the cold wind that day.
What was I wearing?
- Pearl iZUMi Elite Softshell Jacket
- Specialized Therminal EX Deflect Tights
- Pearl iZUMi Long-Sleeved Jersey
- Pearl iZUMi Elite Softshell Gloves
- Specialized Deflect Head Warmer
- Pearl iZUMi Pro Barrier WXB Shoe Cover
Suitable for temperatures between –1ºC and 10ºC (30ºF to 50ºF) this semi-form-fitting jacket was the right choice for my ride that day—comfortable, stylish and cozy warm—that nasty wind didn’t get anywhere near me.
Pearl iZUMi’s Elite Softshell jacket is water-resistant, with a windproof front and a warm breathable back that provides moisture transfer so you don’t get too warm. The collar, cuffs and bottom hem are fashioned with an elasticized ribbed knit, a warm, decorative feature that’s also functional—providing a snug fit on the hips while allowing the cuffs to stretch over heavier cold-weather gloves. The inside lining is a plush, soft-fleece material. There are no side pockets but there is a generously sized back-zippered pocket to store layers that you may want to shed once you warm up.
A contoured sleeve hem easily covers the place where the wrist of your gloves meets the sleeve, insuring that your wrists are covered even when you’re fully extended on the handlebars. A full-length internal draft flap along the front zipper seals in body warmth and keeps the wind and cold on the outside where it should be. Reflective elements along the back of the jacket help you to be seen in low-light conditions. In daylight, the bright peacock colour ensures that you’ll be seen at a distance by motorists. Available in black, peacock, or white.
Bottom line: Classy, comfortable and warm!
Price: $175 US Pearl iZUMi Elite Softshell Jacket
I probably didn’t need to wear such heavy-duty cycling pants, but it was the first really cool day we’d had this fall and I wanted to be warm. This sleek-looking tight from Specialized did the job admirably well. The temperatures—3ºC degrees (38º F) didn’t come close to testing the cold weather conditions that these robust pants are designed for. In fact, within about 30 minutes of starting the ride I was a tad too toasty (better than being too cold).
Panels on the front of the tights use a unique fabric, Therminal™ EX developed by Specialized to protect you from wind and rain/snow. The back part of the tights are insulated with cozy fleece. The cycling pants are comfortable on the bike but retain their spandex snugness. Chamois-free, you wear them over your favourite pair of cycling shorts, which cuts down on how frequently you need to wash the tights. Rated for temperatures between -4 to 10ºC (25 to 50ºF), the Deflect tight will keep you warm through late fall, and depending on where you live, early winter riding.
Ankle zippers make the tights easy to get on and off, and a reflective trim provides added visibility for low-light conditions. A silicone gripper holds the ankle in place. The ankles fit nicely into my shoe covers and didn’t travel during the ride.
With a base layer, the Specialized Therminal™ EX Deflect Tight could do double-duty for cross-country skiing, making it an impressive two-sport tight.
Bottom line: Sleek looking but robust. Excellent value.
Price: $139 CND Specialized Therminal™ EX Deflect Tight
This versatile jersey is suitable for temperatures between 4ºC to 16ºC (40ºF to 60ºF). Wear it under a jacket, alone or with a vest. I wore it under my jacket that day but today it was 13ºC (58ºF) so I tried it on its own—well, not quite. I also wore a cycling vest. Did I mention I’m a wimp when it comes to cool weather? I was warm enough in the jersey but happy to have the vest on too.
Getting clothing just right for fall cycling is a balancing act. Not only do you have to take the temperature into account, but other conditions too. How windy is it? Is the sky clear and sunny, or dark with clouds? Then there’s the terrain: is it hilly, flat, protected or wide open to the elements? All of these factors play into how comfortable you are while on the bike. Work hard climbing hills and you may need to strip off a layer. Hit a long flat exposed part of the road and you’ll be putting that layer back on.
Pearl iZUMi’s Sugar Thermal Jersey is a good option for one of those layers. Made of thermal fleece, it’s warm but transfers moisture well. A full-length zipper makes it easy to get on and off. The single back-pocket zipper opens from either side.
The jersey is available in true red, orchid, peacock and safety orange/white.
Bottom line: Excellent value for a cozy, versatile jersey.
Colours: True red, orchid, peacock, safety orange/white
Price: $80 Pearl iZUMi Sugar Thermal Jersey
These fleece-lined cycling gloves from Pearl iZUMi will keep your paws warm on the bike in cold and windy conditions. Rated for temperatures between –4ºC to –7ºC (40ºF to 20ºF), the Elite Softshell glove protects your hands from wind and rain. The fleece lining is oh so cozy but it’s the Primaloft® insulation that provides the real warmth.
The glove is a cold-buster but it isn’t bulky. I found it easy to shift gears and brake. Gripper bands on the middle and index fingers help with that. The synthetic leather palm is soft, and allows a good grip on the handlebars. There’s a handy soft fleece wiping surface on the thumb with which you can mop up your snot. Why DO noses run like taps once the weather turns cold? (We’ll answer that question in an upcoming issue.)
The Elite Softshell glove doesn’t skimp on padding either—the Ulnar and Median nerves are well protected. As well as being super-functional and comfortable, the glove is also surprisingly stylish, with a mix of both attractive decorative and reflective elements that I’ve come to associate with all Pearli ZUMi products.
One caveat. These gloves aren’t big breathers so if you wear them at a temperature warmer than they’re rated for, your hands will not only be hot but sweaty.
Price: $60 US Pearl iZUMi Elite Softshell Gloves
For newbies, a head warmer (also known as a beanie) covers your head and ears and is worn underneath your helmet in cold weather. I like the Specialized Deflect Head Warmer. While no beanie looks stylish, this one is form-fitting and well contoured to the shape of your head. I’ve tried some that are too long at the front and on the ears, making you look like a complete dork even with your helmet on.
This head warmer from Specialized works just as well but with less material. The front and sides are made from the same Therminal™ fabric as the Deflect tight, protecting your head and ears from the wind and keeping them warm. Inside, it’s covered in fleece. The centre panel is made of a stretchy material called Fieldsensor™ that transfers moisture when you sweat.
I couldn’t get a photo of the head warmer from Specialized but if you click on the link below, you can have a peek.
Price $35 CND Specialized Deflect Head Warmer
Whether you’re cycling in town or outside on country roads, these stylish shoe covers are perfect for cool or rainy fall rides. The fabric, P.R.O. Pearl iZUMI’s Barrier WXB, makes them waterproof and breathable and keeps cold winds out.
The fleece-lined booties are easy to get on. You hook the toe over your shoe and pull a bottom loop over your cleat, and they attach at the back with a sturdy Velcro strip. The fit is snug, which makes the covers look sleek over your shoes. Decorative reflective features on the top and back of the covers add style and low-light visibility.
The shoe covers performed well on the bike. They protected me from the wind and kept my feet warm. Designed for mild, not cold temperatures, they were a perfect match for the temperature that day—3ºC degrees (38º F).
Available in black, or if you really want to make sure your feet are seen, “screaming yellow.”
Price: $50 US Pearl iZUMi P.R.O. Barrier WXB Shoe Cover